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Motivation and Decision Making
Dave Carlson - March 4, 2009


In addition to managing a worker’s physical job execution, the manager must consider intangible factors influencing a worker’s performance. Sometimes intangible factors are difficult to identify and impossible to control. The manager must develop a plan to deal with these factors in organizations. This paper discusses the impacts attitudes, values, personality, ethics, and cultural differences have on organizational behavior. Attitudes influence a person to have evaluative thoughts or make evaluative statements about objects, people, or events. It is in the best interest of managers to understand the cultures of their subordinates. Developing procedures to encourage appropriate behavior, helping people fulfill their dreams, providing a nurturing environment, establishing an ethical framework, and embracing cultural diversity will help establish effective organizational behavior.

Motivation and Decision Making

In addition to managing a worker’s physical job execution, the organizational manager must manage intangible factors influencing how a worker performs; factors motivating a worker to make specific decisions. Sometimes these intangible factors can be difficult to identify or impossible to control. The manager must be aware of and develop a plan to deal with these factors in organizations. This paper will consider the impact of attitudes, values, personality, ethics, and cultural differences on organizational behavior.

Attitudes Influence Organizational Behavior

Attitudes influence a person to have evaluative thoughts or make evaluative statements about objects, people, or events. These thoughts and statements can be favorable or unfavorable (Robbins & Judge, 2009). Attitudes are complex intangible factors that “reflect how we feel about something” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 75). Attitudes have three primary components: cognitive (opinion or belief), affective (emotions or feelings), and behavioral (intention to behave in a certain way toward someone or something) (see Figure 1).

Components of an Attitude
Figure 1. Components of an Attitude
(Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 76)

Robbins and Judge (2009) noted that the three most researched attitudes related to organizational behavior are “job satisfaction, job involvement, and organizational commitment” (p. 79). Management must identify what provides job satisfaction for workers, to help establish and maintain positive attitudes in the workplace (Hosie, Sevastos, & Cooper, 2006). Harigopal (1995) said job involvement referred “to the degree to which the job is considered an important aspect of one’s own self or as contributing to one’s self esteem” (p. 38). “Organizational commitment refers to an employee’s loyalty to and engagement with the organization” (Draft & Lane, 2008, p. 6). Draft and Lane (2008) noted that “an employee with a high degree of organizational commitment is likely to say we when talking about the company” (p. 6).

n 1975, Fishbein and Ajzen proposed a widely-endorsed theory about attitude formation called reasoned action (Barrick & Ryan, 2003). The theory proposed that our attitudes toward a behavior are created by two elements: “our beliefs about the consequences of engaging in a given behavior and our evaluation of the desirability of the consequences of that behavior. These two elements are multiplied to obtain an individual’s overall attitude toward a behavior” (Barrick & Ryan, 2003, p. 160). The concept of reasoned management is important to an organizational manager, since a management goal can be to influence how a person reacts to her attitudes. By establishing and consistently enforcing consequences of a behavior (both positive and negative), a manager is more likely to control which behaviors a worker displays in the workplace.

Values Influence Organizational Behavior

Business decisions are influenced by individual values—basic convictions that “tend to be relatively stable and enduring…established in our early years” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 117). Hultman (2005) compared values in people to instincts in animals. Unfortunately, values are not consistent with everyone, and even the best of values can have a wide variety of interpretations that generate diverse actions. “Throughout history, values have been used to justify everything from the noble to the heinous” (Hultman, 2005, p. 33).

There are two broad categories of values: terminal and instrumental. “Terminal values define the overall goal we want to achieve, and have two components: our purpose or personal mission defines why we exist, and our dreams for the future or personal vision defines what we want to become” (Hultman, 2005, p. 33). Instrumental values are preferred modes of conduct that define how people plan to fulfill their purpose and dreams. Hultman (2005) observed that most people are referring to instrumental values when they use the term “value” (p. 34).

Campbell (2004) conducted a study that reinforced the need for organizational managers to pay attention to values. The results of Campbell’s study demonstrated that “organizational values remained stable, despite extensive changes in the top leadership of the organization coupled with environmental forces that were pushing for change in the organization’s culture” (Campbell, 2004, p. 41). The value system of the individuals that make up the company created a recognizable composite value system for the entire organization, which endured during the six year period observed during Campbell’s study.

Personality Influences Organizational Behavior

Barrick and Ryan (2003) cited the work Allport did in the 1930s, related to defining the abstract concept of personality. Allport’s distillation of fifty definitions of personality, taken from many diverse disciplines, yielded the following composite definition: “personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment” (Barrick & Ryan, 2003, p. 1).

A revealing study of personality observed how certain personality types fit into teams. In a 2008 study, O’Neal and Kline (2008) discovered that “emotional stability predicted task performance and agreeableness predicted cohesion” (p. 66). Conversely, there were no significant effects recorded for extraversion and conscientiousness.

Ethics Influence Organizational Behavior

Most organizations expect members to behave in an ethical manner. “Ethics is always about making decisions, and some issues are more difficult to resolve” (Draft & Lane, 2008, p. 141). When there is a rule that identifies specifically how an organization member should respond, the ethical decision is clear; do what is specified.

However, sometimes a situation arises where right and wrong cannot be clearly identified; two or more values are in conflict. This situation causes an ethical dilemma (Draft & Lane, 2008). Robbins and Judge (2009) offered three different criteria for an individual to consider in making ethical choices.

  • Utilitarian criterion -- decisions are made solely on the basis of their outcomes or consequences. The goal is to provide the greatest good for the greatest number.
  • Rights criterion -- decisions are made consistent with fundamental liberties and privileges, as set forth in documents like the Bill of Rights.
  • Justice criterion -- decisions are made based on the application of rules fairly and impartially, to ensure an equitable distribution of benefits and costs.

Organizational managers are responsible to establish the framework in which their workers are provided the information they need to make correct ethical choices.

Cultural Differences Influence Organizational Behavior

“It is clear that the ability to interact well with individuals from different cultures is a key asset in today’s global business environment” (Robbins & Judge, 2009, p. 46). Therefore, it is in the best interest of organizational managers to understand the cultures of their subordinates. Additionally, it will benefit workers to understand and react appropriately to the cultures of those with whom they work, by reducing or eliminating cultural tension among co-workers.

Konrad, Prasad, and Pringle (2006) suggested there are two ways an organization can respond to cultural differences: assimilation and pluralism. Assimilationists expect those with cultural differences (language, rituals, communication styles, etc.) to voluntarily surrender those differences in favor of the dominant cultural practices. “Assimilation thus demands a considerable amount of cultural sacrifice in return for inclusion and acceptance in the broader society and organization” (Konrad, Prasad, & Pringle, 2006, p. 4). In contrast, the notion of cultural pluralism embraces cultural differences and allows an organization to exploit the strength of its diversity.

Landis and Bennett (2004) noted the efforts of several military organizations around the world to accept cultural diversity. The South African Defense Force effort “clearly demonstrates that diversity training may contribute to overcoming cultural differences and, what is more, to surmounting hostile feelings stemming from the past” (Landis & Bennett, 2004, p. 399). Flexible business organizations can follow the example of inflexible military organizations to embrace cultural differences to make the organization stronger and more effective.


Individual attitudes, values, personality, ethics, and cultural differences influence the behavior of an organization. Effective managers identify and manage these organizational influences. Developing procedures to encourage appropriate behavior, helping people fulfill their dreams, providing a nurturing environment, establishing an ethical framework, and embracing cultural diversity will help establish and maintain effective organizational behavior.


Barrick, M. R. and Ryan, A. M. (Eds.). (2003). Personality and work: Reconsidering the role of personality in organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Campbell, C. R. (Fall 2004). A longitudinal study of one organization’s culture: Do values endure? Mid-American Journal of Business, 19(2), 41-51.

Draft, R. L. and Lane, P. G. (2008). New era of management (2nd international student edition). Mason, OH: Thompson South-Western.

Harigopal, K. (1995). Organizational stress: A study of role conflict. Hyderabad, India: Universities Press.

Hosie, P., Sevastos, P., and Cooper, C. L. (2006). Happy-performing managers. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Hultman, K. (Winter 2005). Evaluating organizational values. Organization Development Journal, 23(4), 32-44.

Konrad, A. M., Prasad, P., and Pringle, J. K. (2006). Handbook of workplace diversity. London: Sage.

Landis, D. and Bennett, M. J. (2004). Handbook of intercultural training. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

O’Neill, T. A. and Kline, T. J. B. (2008). Personality as a predictor of teamwork: A business simulator study. North American Journal of Psychology, 10(1), 65-77.

Robins, S. P, and Judge, T. A. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pretence Hall.


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